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Welcoming 2014!


2013 is mere hours away from ending and wow! I know all of us will have some form of reaction to filing away another year but seriously, it is scary how these days turn into weeks and eventually in the blink of an eye another calendar year is in the past. I’m told that my reaction to this is because I’m getting “old,” however I don’t buy that logic.  

Each New Year brings challenges and new lessons to grasp and I feel like 2013 was a great year for that in my world; makes me happy to reflect on the good – and even the bad, of these past 12 months because in the end, each new day is a gift. 2014 is full of promise already and bright new challenges to face not the least of which is working with the INSPYs (speaking of which, do make sure to nominate your favorite books, nominations close January 16th) and I’m very much anticipating setting out some new goals for myself in this coming year. (PS: you may also want to keep an eye out for the first giveaway of the year next week!) Tonight as I spend the evening with family, watching movies and getting ready to welcome a new year, I’m also going to be remembering 2013 as one of the good years in our past. In many ways, it felt like a “turning point” of the best kind.  

How was your year, friends?

Wishing you all a wonderful, safe, happy and healthy 2014! Cannot wait for another year of laughs writing and friendship; thanks for being a part of the Dreaming Under the Same Moon readership.  

Happy New Year 2014!
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2013's Best in Fiction


Six months ago, I declared on Twitter that I could already make a “best of” 2013 fiction list. Seriously, that is how wonderful the year had been – credit for that goes to authors and the publishing houses that have recognized all of this talent. The following six months were just as grand – full of adventure, romance and so much poignant “food for thought.” Christian fiction has challenged me this year in ways it never has, and as a result, I have many favorites to show for it; more than the “top ten” usually seen in these end-of-the-year memes.

Yesterday, I posted favorite movies/TV shows, I saved the best for last, here are the best of 2013's fiction.

Books:

Wow. Christian fiction basically blew me away this year. What’s below was spiritually challenging and some of these titles were merely “fun,” which mainly applies to secular fiction. Some of these weren't published in 2013, however that's when I read them, so I *had* to include them on this list plus there are more than just 10 below (who can keep it narrowed down that low) and I'm sure that even at that, I forget some novels!
 
 Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden ■ Anomaly by Krista McGee
Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter
Bleeding Heart by Amber Stokes ■ The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Hietzmann
 
Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay ■ The Elite by Kiera Cass ■ Glittering Promises by Lisa T. Bergren ■ Made to Last by Melissa Tagg ■ Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck
 Rules of Murder  by Julianna Deering ■ Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks 
Shattered and Stranded by Dani Pettrey ■ Trapped by Irene Hannon
 Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade ■ When a Secret Kills by Lynette Eason
 
...and that's a wrap for 2013. Another year, another fabulous line-up.
 
Now, it's your turn; what are some of the books or anything else that made your favorites list.
I'd love to know! 
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2013's Best on the Silver Screen


Six months ago, I declared on Twitter that I could already make a “best of” 2013 fiction list. Seriously, that is how wonderful the year had been – credit for that goes to authors and the publishing houses that have recognized all of this talent. Today though, just for fun, I am sharing a few movies and TV shows I saw in 2013 that earned a spot on the proverbial favorites list. Saving that fiction list for last...

Film:

2013 didn’t find me heading to the theater a lot however I saw some fun, good, and thrilling movies both on the big screen and on DVD from this past year. Below is a sampling of what those were. 

Austenland – loveloveloved this "spoof" on Austen's classic stories. Not sure what else can be said about it other than I cannot wait for the February DVD release.  

Beautiful Creatures – typing this in seems strange since I didn’t wind up gushing about this film post seeing it. That being said, I admired its approach to the story and was enchanted with the costumes and settings.  
 
Frozen

Hansel & Gretel, Witch Hunters –  were it not for the violence and language this would be a fun flick for any fairytale lover; it's sassy and has a fabulous cast even if the plot isn't extraordinary.

The Host – I’m not sure what this list is saying about me, seriously, I’ve got a few too many “teen” dramas on this list… huh.

Iron Man 3 – this is, hands down, the best of the franchise. So good – and gutsy! 

 
Safe Haven – impressive acting, beautiful scenery and a fabulous book-to-screen adaptation makes this a lovely movie for any of us who are romantics. Plus, no list such as this is complete without a good Nicholas Sparks adaptation on it.  

Star Trek Into Darkness – BEST. MOVIE. EVER. 

Warm Bodies – cutest movie ever. Loved this one despite having sub-par expectations. 

The Wolverine
 - I liked this one, though I'm not entirely sure it was my favorite of the series.
 
X-Men, First Class - I know, technically this isn't a 2013 movie but I couldn't resist adding it in since I finally saw it this year, it's definitely the "best" in this series so far.

Television:

If you are reading through these titles and thinking, “wait… those are from 2012 (or earlier),” you’d be correct. Since I didn’t see any of these until they released on DVD or just recently started watching some "oldies," they count as “newbies” of 2013. It works. 
Beauty & the Beast

Doctor Who
 
 ■
 
...and that's a wrap for 2013. Another year, another fabulous line-up.

Keep an eye out for my favorites in fiction... saved the best for last. :)
 
Now, it's your turn; what are some of the movies/television shows that made your favorites list.
I'd love to know! 
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Frozen (2013)



Quoted as the “best Disney” film since The Lion King, the slim pickings at my theater of choice around Christmas made the choice unanimous – we would be seeing Frozen for our sometimes-annual Christmas week theater outing. Here is what I wound up thinking about the much-buzzed about animated, princess film.  

Young princesses, Anna and Elsa are the best of friends. They are more than just sisters and playmates, their relationship is one that never sees turmoil… until Elsa’s magical powers destroy that. Born with the ability to turn anything at her touch into ice, Elsa and Anna’s midnight winter playground frivolity goes wrong when Anna is hurt at Elsa’s hand and for the next many years, Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) is kept to her room at the hope of her parents that as she grows, so will her ability to control her powers. Three years after the death of their parents, Elsa’s coronation day arrives and with it Elsa’s worry over being able to manage secreting her powers… and a fear that Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) may learn the truth.  


It’s hard to look back at Disney’s record and actually pull out films that were “bad.” Sure, like anything there are certain ones that I thought were less than memorable yet through it all, they’ve maintained decent, enchanting, adventurous and family friendly entertainment. Back in 2010, they re-spun the legend of Rapunzel in Tangled and now the creative Disney minds had been inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ice Queen which resulted in this magical piece of animation. I cannot recount all of the Pinterest, Twitter or blog mentions that popped up on timelines for this movie. Already on my radar from its cute promo spots and a conversation with a friend, it wasn’t long before I began to put this on the list of movies that perhaps needed to be experienced on the big-screen. Walking out of the theater with a smile was the only effect I needed from this and fortunately, Frozen gave that to me.  

Anything I watch or read that frames a realistic portrait of sisters instantly assures I’m likely to be its biggest fan-girl (case in point, In Her Shoes, Austen stories and Little Women); the back-and-forth closeness contrasted with growing apart as time passes is such an accurate­ portrayal of life with sisters that this film actually made me tear up once or twice (yep, that’s right, a Disney movie made me misty-eyed) and left its viewer with nothing if not a joyful feeling. The progression of this script was brilliant and I had a great appreciation for the guessing game it engages us in. I wavered between the outcome of relationships though didn’t doubt everything would end tied up in a pretty package. 


Elsa’s character was probably the most complex; she was one of those characters we root for to choose good over bad and she’s a girl we know wants to use her powers for only the good, yet deep down she has a repressed desire to quit hiding and be “herself.” Anna is the pure counterpart to Elsa’s repressed feelings – Anna is open, warm, adventurous, kind-hearted and truly desirous to be close with her sister. It’s this character distinction that makes this movie so precious. As always, the supporting characters are just as phenomenal. Kristoff was a fun personality and seriously, I am not sure there is a more adorable, memorable side-kick than Olaf the snowman – things don’t get funny until that little guy shows up midway through the movie, or at least, not sweet enough until that point. I dare you not to fall in love with this little guy. *wink* As a friend said, we kind of want Olaf for a friend - after all, he likes "warm hugs." Aside from spontaneous bursts into song (which are beautiful by the way, I loved Elsa’s ‘Let it Go’), the movie is brilliant. The animation is gorgeous – the clothes, settings and characters themselves, and I adored the few moments that set up Anna and Elsa’s bond as children.

If you hold Tangled as one of your favorite Disney movies or you’re looking for something to see, take all of the little (and big – my mom and I both loved this one) girls in your family to see this! It’s irresistible. ❤️

(Rated PG for some mild "rude" comments and the "adventure" of the movie.)
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INSPY 2014 Updates


Good morning, readers! I trust you all spent a wonderful December 25th with family, good food and plenty of laughter. My day was quiet - as usual - with lots of Christmas movies and thoughts on another Christmas passing by. As we near the end of another year, I'm eagerly looking forward to reading the blogosphere's take on what the best in fiction was and have gotten my own post on said subject put together, in fact, stay tuned, I may share "part one" later today - the movie, television part since of course, I think the fiction is the best ergo it should be saved for last. But that's beside the point.

Today, the purpose of this new blog post is all about the 2014 INSPYs. This is the day we've been planning for - your nominations! The 2014 nomination form is now up and running on the site, or in other terms, we're waiting for your nominations to come in. In case you missed it, we're also wanting some feedback from potential judges and supporters of the INSPYs which you can offer on our Goodreads poll page. For more information on nominating, here's the 2014 press release:

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

2014 INSPYs Nominations Open 

December 27, 2013—Nominations for 2014 INSPY Awards opened today. 

The Inspy Awards has returned for a fourth year. The INSPYs were created to select and showcase books with the highest literary standards that grapple with the Christian faith and were designed to help readers in their search for the preeminent faith-inspired literature of today. This program is organized and judged by book bloggers who have considerable experience and knowledge of books published for both the CBA and general market. 

We welcome the return of advisory board members Lydia Mazzei, Stacy Millican, and Rel Mollet, and are thrilled to introduce our new board members, Rissi and Jamie Lapeyrolerie.

Please note that the advisory board has made the following changes to book eligibility and the nomination process:

     Debut Novel and Historical Romance categories have been introduced.
     The Romance category has been broadened and renamed the Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense category
     The dates of eligibility have returned to a 12 month timeframe and will include books published between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013. 
     Self-published books have been eliminated from consideration.
     Books are to be nominated by someone other than the author. 

Book nominations are sought in the following genres: Debut Novel, General Fiction, Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense, Historical Romance, Literature for Young Adults, Speculative Fiction, and Mystery & Thriller. The deadline to nominate a book is January 16.

Besides nominating the best in faith-driven literature, another way to help today is to spread the word — blog about the INSPYs, tell your friends. 

The winners of the fourth annual INSPY awards will be announced June 28, 2014. 

To stay informed, subscribe to the site: http://inspys.com

--

The INSPYs Awards:  The Bloggers' Awards for Excellence in Faith-Driven Lit

 
If you'd like to potentially become involved with the 2014 INSPYs - by judging or nominating - please keep an eye out for the reminders of our judges applications (which will come up in the next couple of months) and visit our INSPYs site to nominate. Also, we welcome any help spreading the word on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook. Thanks for all your support!
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Have Yourself a Merry Christmas!



Dear Readers,

Sending out Christmas cards is one of the old-fashioned, time-honored traditions I still observe. Due to time limitations and other reasons, those of you who I’ve come to know cannot all be on my list – though it’s not for wish that it were possible, so I’m doing the next best thing; sending you a blog greeting version of a Christmas card.

In the past 2 ½ year of being a part of this blogosphere community, I feel fortunate to have “fallen into” a group of bloggers who are kind and oh-so-much fun to “know.” I respect you for different reasons and am grateful for what a great journey it has been to be part of that. Thank you sincerely for being so welcoming and teaching me things I never expected to find in this environment.

With some of you, I’ve exchanged emails or cards… and some of you have been avid supporters of Dreaming Under the Same Moon, and no matter what, I’ve enjoyed each conversation.

I wish you all a joyous Christmas Day, friends  - with lots of family, good cheer and food, and love - and hope you are blessed in this coming year.

Merry Christmas!
- Rissi



Just for fun, I'll leave you with this Taylor Swift song... surprisingly, it's one of the most poignant contemporary songs I've heard.
video
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Christmas on the Bayou (2013)


Television movies that feature an actor with a familiar name makes me curious, when it’s a Christmas movie, I’m double interested. Part of Lifetime’s Christmas programming, this one starred Hilarie Burton in an all-too-familiar plot yet even still, it was a pleasant one full of warmth and sense of family. The story follows the workaholic Katherine (Burton) whose world is consumed by earning a promotion at the expense of her 7-year-old, Zach (Brody Rose). With a tough school year for Zach, Katherine decides a change of pace and scenery might be just what they need so leaving the hustle-bustle of New York behind, she returns home to her Southern roots where her mother (Markie Post) still lives… and a part of her heart may still belong. 

Any television script that steps away from the normal earns points and that is just what this movie does – albeit in subtle ways. The romance component was an interesting one. It never drifted into the clichĂ© territory of the predictability of an unspoken relationship (the kind that has the couple “dating” without really talking about where they’re heading) which left the cute romantics more room to blossom. Katherine’s reluctance is made clear from the beginning and Caleb’s persistence in winning her over was charming in a perfect Southern kind of way – there is an adorable scene of banter between the two that just sparkled and of course, while the ending was too abrupt for its own good, it was nothing if not happy… and fulfilling. I admired that this film didn’t pack in every opportunity it could have to be “characteristic,” such as pushing an additional romance or a promised “miracle” coming to fruition; it had its own brand of sentiment and Christmas on the Bayou had enough good going for it without cluttering the script up with such unnecessary material.  

The acting was full of life and emotion. Hilarie Burton was wonderful and it was fun to see her play such an opposite role of what she plays in White Collar – and I might add, play it well. I liked her playing off of Tyler Hilton, as a daughter and mother, each side of her personality she played well and the entire cast was equally good, especially Zach. It’s rare that a strong cast be found in television film scripts however this movie was the exception. Its progression was really well executed and the story flowed nicely (save for maybe the two-minute opening which felt a bit… unpolished in comparison) and of course, I adored the setting because it was so different than the rest of its peers – i.e., a setting full of the white stuff or magic of the North Pole. Seeing characters in t-shirts and shorts may not put you in the Christmas spirit as easily but not to worry, the movie has plenty of cheer.

If you haven’t seen this one, read up on it. In my listing of Christmas favorites, it’s easily among them; if you can’t find showings on Lifetime (it airs tonight, December 24th and early on December 25th), you can get it on iTunes or Amazon via instant video and it’s worth a look.  

What about all of you… do you like Christmas movies that aren’t “traditional”?
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Christmas Movies: Mini Reviews



Since I’ve posted so many Christmas movies, I thought that repetitively reviewing televised seasonal movies may have grown tiresome for you all. But, I do like sharing about favorites and the like, so instead of “full” reviews, I’m sharing just some "quick" thoughts on some of the Christmas movies I have recently watched… and this will maybe be the last (*sniff, sniff*) of the Christmas films reviewed around here considering the date. However I am making no promises… especially since I have more yet to watch and you never know, that may mean some show up in the week after Christmas.  
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Lovebirds of 2013



Unbeknownst to the lovely ladies of Silver Petticoat, one of their posts gave me an idea for one of my own, so I ran with it. Last week, they put together their top 30 favorite couples and since the end of the year gives us all an excuse to look back, reminisce and remember favorite things about the year, and while we’re reflecting on all the ways we’ve grown or the joys of life, there is no harm in also recalling what we loved most about favorite television fandoms. I mean, let’s admit it, we’ve all gotten caught up in some sort of fictional pairing, right? (Come on, you can totally admit it.) Whoever thinks that keeping a couple at arm’s length for years in a will-they-or-won’t-they scenario is seriously wrong.

There were multiple shows that finally put their leading couples together romantically in this last year and while there is still conflict and tension, it’s worked out beautifully and the series have never (seriously…) been better. 

Here are some of my favorite pairings…  

 

Annie Walker and Auggie Anderson, Covert Affairs – I’m still not sure how I feel about this couple romantically involved. They were so good together as friends and had a special connection, still last I saw them, I couldn’t tamp down the tiny smile that resulted from seeing them begin a romance… only what are those uncertain rumors I read about season five all about!? 

Bing and Jane, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries  

Bones (Temperance Brennan) and Seeley Booth, Bones - Another couple I adore.

Castle (Richard Castle) and Kate Beckett, Castle ­– what more needs to be said about this couple except for... finally!

Danny and Linda Reagan, Blue Bloods – this is one that may slip under everyone's notice because it’s not a “sweeping” kind of romance in the way of some of the other couples on this list. Good marriages are hard to find on TV but the showrunners of Blue Bloods know how it’s done. Danny and Linda have their disagreements and troubles, but above it all, both are devoted to each other and it’s inspiring.  

Darcy and Lizzie, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – seriously, how could I not put this couple on the list? I mean, I know technically they weren’t on a proper television show… yet, here they are.

Dot and Hugh, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries these two are SO cute together.

Dr. Turner and Sister Bernedette, Call the Midwife –  cannot express how much I enjoyed the turn of events that resulted in this pairing. Can we say, aww...

Jack Robinson and Phryne Fisher, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries –  Love these two. Not sure if they'll get together or not, but a girl can hope.

Oliver Queen and Felicity, Arrow – last I saw these two together, it was all-too-obvious that Felicity was crushing royally on Oliver… but I couldn’t make up my mind as to whether or not he was developing feelings for her. There’s no question he cares about her, however I didn’t know if Oliver’s protectiveness was more out of loyalty to keeping his friends safe or something more. Either way, these two together would be magic – I already adore Felicity and with the right woman, Oliver would finally be a well-rounded character.  

Matthew and Mary Crawely, Downton Abbey - Matthew and Mary. 'Nuff said.

Paige Collins and Evan R. Lawson, Royal Pains – anyone who doesn’t think these two are made-for-each-other are just wrong. I am sorry. They’re too cute together and if ever writers break them up, I will be one unhappy girl.  

Peter and Elizabeth Burke, White Collar – again, here’s a couple that like the Reagan’s may slip “under the radar,” yet theirs is another shining example of a grounded marriage. She’s insanely supportive of Peter, helping him to see things he may sometimes be blinded to, which is a nice switch-up.  

Steve McGarrett and Catherine Rawlings, Hawaii Five-0 – I may be taking a “risk” putting this couple on my list because I feel like I’m the only person who likes them together but… Cat is good for Steve. She’s independent and rarely demands anything from Steve (him on the other hand… well, we all know about the many times he’s asked Cat to use her Navy resources), which is the kind of girl his character needs.

Vincent Keller and Catherine Chandler, Beauty & the Beast - oh, yes, I couldn't resist adding another back-and-forth, will-they-or-won't-they couple. What can I say? It's all in the romance.

-------
What about you, friends? I’d love to know who you root for, who you don’t and anything else you’d like to chat up.
đź’•
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What I'm Listening To: Christmas Music


(Thanks for all the blog comments yesterday, friends! Been busy but will be by with replies as soon as possible. With any luck, later today!)
 
G'Morning, friends. This past week (or two...?) has been all about Christmas around here, I know, but... I just can't help myself! It's not the most wonderful time of year for nothing. I've been thinking about doing a "favorites" list somehow related to Christmas and was going to do a movie list only to remember I did that last year, and it seems "too soon" to do another. Books were out since I can probably count on one hand the number of "proper" Christmas-themed books I've read, so what does that leave? Music of course!

Here is a sampling of past favorites, new favorites and some I've been putting on repeat - some are singles and some are albums:

BarlowGirl, Carol of the Bells: This sister-trio may have disbanded earlier this year however their recording of this classic, old-time carol is just beautiful! It's made even more so because they sing it acapella, a style that shows what true talent is.               

Luke Bryan, Run, Run Rudolph

 Casting Crowns, Peace on Earth 

Kelly Clarkson, Wrapped in Red: Love Kelly’s music on her “normal” albums so it was a must to check out her first Christmas album – it’s a nice mix of tradition and contemporary plus anyone who puts ‘My Favorite Things’ on their album gets props! 

Katherine Jenkins, This is Christmas: I’ve never been much of a “classic” music fan in general unless it’s Broadway music. When I “met” Katherine on Dancing with the Stars, I thought she seemed like one of the sweetest contestants they'd ever had so needless to say, I immediately looked into her music and purchased her latest Christmas album. It's lovely.

Lady Antebellum, On this Winter’s Night: Always love anything this trio does and their Christmas album is no different. They’ve got an original (its titular song) plus a great sampling of old favorites.

Little Big Town, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: This group is SO much fun, they have a crazy good album out now (Tornado) and when I heard them sing an acapella version of Children, Go Where I Send Thee on a TV special, I was blown away – it proved this group is mega talented. This single isn’t quite as impressive but still, it’s mellow and pleasant to listen too.

Katherine McPhee, Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You  

Kellie Pickler, The Man with the Bag: As usual, Kellie puts her “unique” spin on an old favorite (much as she did for Santa Baby, which is another favorite) and she makes it fun! 
 
Megan & Liz , Oh Holy Night: This is one of my very favorite classic Christmas songs. The Youtube, sister-duo of Megan and Liz just released their version of it this year and I've really enjoyed it. It's "different" than more of the dozens of other recordings I've heard but that is what makes it special.

Point of Grace, Tennessee Christmas 

Blake Shelton, Cheers, It’s Christmas 

Rebecca St. James, Christmas
 
How about you? What are your favorite Christmas songs or albums... do share below! 
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A Bride for Christmas (2012) - Christmas Romance in the Style of 'Runaway Bride'


(…I know, I know, there has been a plethora of Christmas-y material around here lately, but well, this is the one time of year when I cannot seem to overindulge in the simple joys of the season enough. Watching Christmas movies is part of that. ) 

When this wasn’t released on DVD this year, I was a bit disappointed because the photos and plot gave this one away – it was going to be one I’d like. Fortunately I got to prove that theory true.  

Instead of a phobia of spiders or crazy superstition, Jessie Patterston (Arielle Kebbel) has a phobia of… weddings. She can run a successful interior design company with her sister, just not a life with a man. Just before Christmas she falls into an old pattern; she is about to walk down the aisle for the third time, and like the two times before that, the pressure is starting to get to her. She makes it down the aisle, but runs out on her fiancĂ© before the I Do’s can be recited. This is why she’s sworn off men… until she meets the charming, successful Aiden (Andrew Walker). Even though she’s just come off of her botched wedding, Aiden makes Jessie believe that love is real – that nerves shouldn’t be what a person feels when they say yes to a proposal.

Unbeknownst to Jessie, the entire time she and Aiden are getting to know each other, he has made a bet with friends… a bet that will again leave Jessie running.

Seriously, this script is one of those that make its viewer go, “aww…” throughout its entirety. Putting aside the fact that it’s got a bad case of the coined term “insta-love,” this seriously, instantly scaled my “list” of favorites in the litany of contemporary-made seasonal movies. Usually none of the actors ruin the televised Christmas movies, still, there is normally one of the leads that could have been cast better, however that was not the misfortune of this flick; for once I adored the leads together – there was some nice chemistry between them and Aiden will remind any rom-com fan of a young Michael Varten (Alias, Never Been Kissed, Monster-In-Law); Arielle has a nice bubbly personality that brands her as one of those girl-next-door types. 
Watching through this, I “get” why it’s went unreleased under Hallmark’s branding; I’m not entirely sure I like that moviegoers cannot purchase a DVD, however given its storyline and an “add-in” PC character, it’s easy to understand. That being said, unless you are troubled by a script that devises to put its leading couple together after a convenient (or foolish) bet is made, then A Bride for Christmas is an adorable way to spend 80-some minutes. Like any good moment of truth, Aiden of course realizes that he loves Jessie and panicked, he refuses to follow through on the original “plan,” which eventually paves the way for the love birds. Like most movies, there is an annoying 5-minute break-up before things wrap up with a pretty bow yet the overall story was worth it because underneath the clichĂ©s, this is definitely one of the better produced Christmas films and for that I couldn’t resist its charms.

Take a peek at the promo video:
(Parental concerns: one character is homosexual – she goes on a date once and we learn it’s been a long time, though we see or hear no details and there’s a couple other minor quips about this. There's some immodest clothing. The film is rated PG.)
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Christmas Checklist



These first two weeks of December have flown by and it's really not fair I tell you, it's just not. I'm not entirely sure where these past few weeks have gone and why they're moving so swiftly by. *sigh* Again, it feels like I'm not going to get everything done that needs doing which is why, today I'm making a list... and checking it twice... and well, you know how the rest of it goes.

If I were organized, my Christmas checklist might look something like this:

 
How about all of you, friends?
What's on your never-ending Christmas list...
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Finding Christmas (2013)



Entertainment’s definition of my personal preference is not a very “serious” one. First and foremost, I seek out things that are going to make me laugh, be swept up and occasionally, make me tear up. This is why at Christmas time, I am most eager to enjoy some hot chocolate or popcorn (or both) and curl up with one of the Christmas movies that find frequent homes on various networks. Finding Christmas is one of The Hallmark Channel’s 2013 newbies and of the three I saw during their “countdown to Christmas,” it happens to be the favorite.

Finding Christmas tells the story of two small-town siblings. For brother, Owen (J.T. Hodges), Christmas has just been soured. His hopes of rekindling his seven-year relationship have just been crushed when he learns his ex is about to marry her short-term new beau. This prompts Ryan (Tricia Helfer) to insist that her brother get out of town for a while – take a vacation. Since arguing with his sister is pointless, Owen puts his house on a house swap site and almost immediately he receives a response from an NYC ad exec looking to escape the city after his girlfriend dumped him just as Sean (Mark Lutz) was going to propose. Though both men are skeptical about an out-of-their-league swap, they find themselves going through with the plan… and discover something they didn’t know they were missing.


This plot is one that was just done last year on the same network in the adorable Trading Christmas, one that I’ve not rewatched yet (shame on me) this year, but do remember laughing hysterically though the entire run time. Remembering that, it surprised me that there was a script so similar within the same year. Nonetheless if you’re fond of the house-swapping scenario (any fans of The Holiday out there!?), trust me, this title is just your cup of tea. The cast is fabulous though aside from Tricia, most of their names are unfamiliar however seeing Tricia in a good-girl role was interesting since last I saw her she was playing an annoying villainess who the hero just couldn’t quite shake. What was most “different” about the cast of characters was what a limiting part Ryan’s son played in the film – I’m not sure I’d seen something that put a cap on the few times the child character was in the movie, normally, they’re in multiple frames which always ups the “cute scale.” What he is in was fun and it was even cuter to watch his haul around his robo reindeer.


Before closing, here’s a confession – this movie duped me (not that I minded, of course). Seriously, it shouldn’t have been so charming considering already it was following in the much bigger footsteps of the Jack Black, Cameron Diaz star-studded charmer, not to mention having a twin the year prior and yet, the script was just lovely. The friction works effectively and of course, the characters are fun. Just as a warning to anyone who doesn’t like the insta-love scenario; that is employed here – it seems at first meeting, couples fall in love or at least something near to that. Anyone who wants a wholesome quality, full of good cheer new Christmas flick this year, make sure to gather round and catch Finding Christmas this weekend. It’s worth discovering… and don't forget the hot chocolate!

Mark your calendars and tune in to see Finding Christmas this Sunday, December the 15th, and take a peek at the promo spot:
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Hats off to Christmas (2013)


Heartwarming always works at Christmas and this cute little piece of fluff is like a sweet candy cane. Haylie Duff plays a single mom, Mia who has a lot on her plate. Between caring for her son and healing from the death of her husband, she’s eager for a promotion at her job and with that, better hours to spend more time with her son, Scotty (Sean Michael Kyer). For ten years Mia has worked at Hats off to Christmas and in those years, she’s worked her way up to manager at their year-round store, so when she gets a call for a meeting with her boss, she assumes it’s about an upper management position. How wrong that turns out to be – instead she is asked to train the boss’ son, (Antonio Cupa) whose fancy college education and keen business sense is what’s shaping him to take over the company.

While watching this movie, the probability of anyone forgetting that it takes place at Christmas is slim to none because of the setting – and I love that. Because much of the movie takes place inside of a store front that’s packed wall to ceiling with adorable Santa-style hats, there are some fun scenes involving window decorating (this scene is particularly cute no matter it’s adorably outlandish dĂ©cor) and silly antics between the workers, and some of these scenes put the film akin to the oldie but goodie Borrowed Hearts, though beyond its factory workers who look to each other as family, there the similarities end.

While it was fun to see Cupo in another movie, I must confess to being partial to his prior Hallmark role in Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Nonetheless, this film was too cute to complain rigidly about – aside from Mia’s stereotypical annoyance (and maybe her wardrobe, which wasn't also complimentary) when a certain someone lets her son down, for me, her character was a bit too wishy-washy to “feel” genuine. Once you accept that, this film really is cute in a fluffy feel-good way… and I loved every minute of it! Unlike most of its counterparts, this does span a much longer timeframe so while we are sometimes finding the romance unbelievable, it’s important to remember that instead of taking place the two weeks before Christmas, this one actually begins before Halloween and concludes, of course, on Christmas. The emphasis on family and its importance is precious and Scotty is one great kid (his cute “boyfriend” speech was too sweet), so if you are in the mood for decorating your tree this weekend or enjoying a wholesome family movie night, don’t miss out on the latest Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas title.

Hats off to Christmas airs Saturday, December 14th. Take a peek at the promo spot:
Visit Hallmark on-line:
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The Case of the Crafty Christmas Crooks Spotlight


Morning, all! Today the blogosphere is launching a brand-new book tour (at the helm, is blogger and publicist extraordinaire, Amber Stokes) and while I haven’t read this novel, I am assured it’s super cute, which translates into a post here on Dreaming Under the Same Moon that is spotlighting a new children’s novel involving some cat detectives – what’s cuter than that, right!?

When I was a kid, cats were running wild around our yard (living on a farm meant that sort of came standard – even if it was a non-working one for us), so I know as a kid, this probably would have been a book that would have thrilled me – right along with the Bernstein Bears, Johnny Tractor and the like. But enough reminiscing, let’s talk details about The Case of the Crafty Christmas Crooks, after what you came to read up on! So read on below, you’ll find any and all pertinent information about the book, which Amber so professionally put together.

Coming December 8-21! A Christmastime blog tour perfect for cat-lovers and all who love a sweet story with a little mystery. Includes "presents" in the form of Pinterest-contest prizes (from Mysteries by Vincent), as well as spotlight posts, interviews, and reviews on various blogs!
About the Book

Buckley and Bogey, Cat Detectives, find their next case hits a little too close to home. Because someone has been breaking into houses and stealing all the Christmas presents! And the first two robberies even took place in their very own neighborhood. Holy Catnip! Of course, the boys leap in on all fours to investigate right away. Then it isn't long before they realize they are dealing with some real criminal masterminds, since these burglars know exactly how to cover their tracks. Plus, the crooks have the whole town of St. Gertrude on edge and they're threatening to ruin Christmas for everyone.



But figuring out the identity of the Christmas Crooks isn't the only mystery around. After all, Buckley had just been adopted from the cat shelter this year, and this was the first he'd ever heard about Christmas. And he quickly finds out there is a lot to learn! From Christmas trees to Santa Claus, and jingle bells to the birth of baby Jesus, the real meaning of Christmas is a mystery to him. But he and Bogey can't really enjoy any of it until the Christmas Crooks are caught. That's because it becomes very clear, very quick — these Christmas Crooks have set their sights on the boys' house, too! And the burglars are headed straight for their door. Holy Mackerel! 

 
Pinterest Contests! 
Contest #1
 
 

Prize: Lies, Spies and Allies, 8-player murder mystery party game from Mysteries by Vincent!

"Pin the Cover Contest" Official Rules:


  • Take the cover image for The Case of the Crafty Christmas Crooks from the blog tour page or Buckley Bergdorf, Cat Detective's Pinterest page
  • Pin it to one of your boards on Pinterest.
  • E-mail the publicist at amberstokes@editingthroughtheseasons.com saying you've participated. Please write "Pin the Cover Contest" in the subject line, and include your Pinterest user name and the name of the board you pinned the cover to in your e-mail.
  • One winner will be randomly drawn from all e-mailed entries and announced at Seasons of Humility on December 21, 2013.
  • Please note that you must have a Pinterest account and be a resident of the U.S. or Canada to be eligible for this contest.
Read about a second contest and any more blog tour information on Seasons of Humility.

About the Author

Cindy Vincent was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and has lived all around the US and Canada. She is the creator of the Mysteries by Vincent murder mystery party games and the Daisy Diamond Detective Series games for girls. She is also the award-winning author of the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Caper books, and the Daisy Diamond Detective book series. She lives with her husband and an assortment of fantastic felines.


About the Cat Detectives

Buckley and Bogey are cat detectives who specialize in running surveillance on their home each and every night. And though they’re both black cats, they couldn’t be more different. Bogey is slim and sleek, and he generally takes things in stride. Buckley, on the other hand, is a gigantic Maine Coon cat with an anxiety disorder. And because he’s still a Rookie when it comes to the whole cat detective business, well, that just makes him even more nervous than before. Plus, it seems his body is always growing and he can never really get used to his size. Saluting with gigantic paws can be especially difficult. And it doesn’t help that he seems to make mistake after mistake . . .

Even so, Buckley's got a heart as big as the rest of him and he refuses to give up on his dream of being a great cat detective. Thankfully, Bogey doesn’t seem fazed by Buckley’s growing pains and he keeps teaching Buckley how to do the job right. Then, when the boys open their own detective agency and advertise it on the Internet, well, that’s when things really get interesting.
 
Thanks so much for stopping by - please do leave a comment for Cindy about her new book! :)
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